Demand for plant-based foods predicted to rise by over 200% in key Asia-Pacific markets

01 February 2024 Peak Recruitment

Plant Based Food

The way we eat is changing and with increasing numbers of people cutting out or reducing meat and dairy from their diets, the demand for plant-based foods looks set to rise by over 200% in key Asia-Pacific markets. Not only does this potential increase highlight consumer concerns over health and sustainability, it also paves the way for a significant and sustained increase in plant-based meat alternatives’ market share across the Asia-Pacific region.

This dramatic increase has been revealed by new research carried out by DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences in collaboration with Ipsos, the global market research firm. In particular, the study has highlighted a major increase in the demand for plant-based alternatives to meat, specifically in Thailand and China where it is predicted that the market will grow by a staggering 200%. In addition, thanks to a wider trend across the Asia-Pacific region, the overall Asian plant-based meat market is set to increase by 25% within the next five years.

What are the factors behind this growth?

A number of factors are driving the increase in demand for plant-based meat alternatives; largely due to changing consumer habits and attitudes towards meat consumption. These changes are, in part, due to an ever-increasing worldwide awareness of the impact that traditional agricultural practices are having upon health, animal welfare and climate change.

Changing attitudes are only part of the picture though and another significant factor is our growing demand for food, especially those that are high in protein. This increase has posed the important question of where and how we source protein for human consumption. The answers are being provided by plants and fungi, thanks to the healthier nutritional profile and lower carbon footprint they have in comparison to animal protein. Although we have been eating plant-based alternatives such as tofu and tempeh for centuries, plant-based meat analogues (foods derived from structured plants or fungus and designed to replace animal meat) have emerged as a new type of plant-based proteins.

Whilst the trend for plant-based foods is replicated widely across the Asia-Pacific region, there are country-specific variations behind the increase. In China, for example, plant-based meats have become fashionable, thanks to endorsements by celebrities and growing consumer concern over issues such as sustainability and health. In addition, China’s local plant-based industry is enjoying

encouragement from the Chinese government which has set a target of reducing meat consumption by 50 per cent by 2030. As a result, Chinese food manufacturers such as HERO Protein and Hey Maet, are tailoring their products to match the preferences of customers in the Asia-Pacific region, who have very different buying attitudes to consumers in Western Europe.

Will this drive an increase in food and beverage recruitment in Thailand?

The situation is slightly different in Thailand where consumers are being encouraged to adopt a plant-based diet for its convenience and nutritional benefits. Furthermore, Thailand’s reputation for innovation in food production and development should also be taken into account. In a recent interview with vegconomist, the vegan business magazine, the CEO of Thai company Let’s Plant Meat, Smith Taweelerdniti, highlighted that: “Thailand has a strong ecosystem and supporting industry to manufacture food products. This country has a labor force that is highly skilled and food companies that have a reputation in quality and reliability.”

According to the DuPont study, consumers in Thailand are mainly looking for plant-based alternatives to meat which offer the ultimate combination of nutrition, taste and convenience. It’s information such as this which is driving Let’s Plant Meat to capitalise on their expertise by setting up Thailand’s first Plant-Based Foods Association to work with local companies to support the growth of a local, plant-based industry. In addition, it’s worth noting that as Thai businesses adapt to this change in eating habits, there is likely to be an increase in food and beverage recruitment in Thailand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

On the flip side, Vietnam has been flagged as a region where increased consumer education is required to encourage stronger awareness of the availability and benefits of plant-based alternatives to meat.

Food manufacturers plant the seeds of change 

All-in-all it’s clear that Asian appetites are moving towards a plant-based diet and as the region is home to over 4 billion people, the potential for growth in this market is significant. As Michelle Lee, regional marketing leader, APAC, DuPont N&B said: “We are about to see a dramatic increase in demand for plant-based alternatives to meat which food businesses need to start preparing for right now.”

A great example of how companies are gearing up for change is the Asian seafood giant, Thai Union. The company has unveiled plans to launch a brand new range of products made from seafood and plant-based ingredients, and non-seafood items. The range is set to be launched later this year and is being introduced in reaction to a significant increase in consumer demand. Thai Union is confident that it’s long-standing expertise in seafood will put it one step ahead in terms of product development, ensuring they are in line which changing consumer tastes.

Peak Recruitment – recruitment specialists for the Asian food industry

As the clamour for plant-based foods looks set to continue, there is likely to be an increase in demand for the expertise of talented individuals. At Peak Recruitment we are industry recruitment specialists to the Food & Beverage, Animal Agriculture and Crop Agribusiness Markets. Thanks to our three decades of experience within the Food and Agriculture businesses, we are in the best place to deliver the right people to the right roles.